We are Called to Worship. (Based upon my notes from Pastor Nate Ruch’s sermon on Sunday June 25, 2017)
Scripture Text: Daniel Chapter 3
20 years after the Israelites were taken captive to Babylon, Daniel and his 3 friends, who were tested and tried in Chapter 2, were still thriving. They were high-ranking in the Babylonian court, they were loyal servants to a cruel, narcissistic king, obedient whenever it was possible for them; but they were still loyal to the living God. They had boundaries that could not be violated and loyalties which were non-negotiable. These men had now spent more time in captivity than they had spent before captivity. They did not have their daily devotional reading, a church family, a Spiritual Family Chat, or a Bible to keep them in line. They had the previous wise choices of their strong characters, and wisdom which had developed from the knowledge they had gained of God and His Kingdom, before being taken away from home and family.
And the King? Nebuchadnessar had been warned in a dream which Daniel had interpreted: You are the head of gold, the king of kings—but your kingdom shall be crushed and taken from you, just as the statue in his dream was crushed. His reactionary proclamation that “there is no god like the God of Daniel who is able to interpret my dream…” Now we find him twenty years later, having forgotten about what happened to the statue in his dream, and having built a huge icon of himself to be worshipped! Instead of bowing his knee to the God of Daniel, he insisted that everyone’s knee should bow instead to him! Little did Nebuchadnezzar realize it, but he had been “set up” by God, used to show God’s superiority through His loyal worshippers.
The goal of such a call to worship was unity in the nation, establishment of loyalty. Such “statues” are still being built today, and the call to leadership is to worship them.
We are born with a call to worship. There is a God-shaped cavity within each of us that can only be filled with God. When we unwisely choose to fill it with the worship of other gods, we violate our divine purpose. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo were ordered to bow down and worship the statue of evil King Nebuchadnezzar; but they made the choice to refuse, knowing that it would likely cost them their lives. They did not know the end of the story, as we do.
A decision like this can not remain private and go unnoticed. It is seen and known by all! As there are haters and tattlers now who seek to betray and destroy the loyal followers of God, so there were in this day as well. The haters hated and the tattlers tattled, and the three men were condemned to die in the fiery furnace. Yet they remained firm in their choice.
What kind of faith is this?
- They had faith that had moved from “What if?” to “EVEN if!”. They declared that their God was able to deliver them—but even if He did not, they would not waver in their worship of only Him.
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)
They did not have commercial faith, which is based on rewards or outcome. They had true faith, based on the Personhood of God. He is Who He says He is, regardless of what the eyes could see.
- They had non-negotiable faith. When the music was played (the powerful cue) they were determined not to bow, no matter how strong the pull. They would pass the test of the importance of their priorities. Their convictions were not based on comfort or convenience.
- They had a tested and tried faith. Faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted. They had developed this endurance and strength over a lifetime of wise choices of obedience. It did not just miraculously show up in the eleventh hour.
God’s Presence is with us in the Fire! Emmanuel means “God is with us”. Whether we inevitably perish in the fire or are miraculously delivered as these men were, God is with us! In life or in death. The book of Job records Job saying, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”
19 Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. 20 Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes, and other garments. 22 And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in. 23 So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames.
24 But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?”
“Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied.
25 “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god[g]!”
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. 27 Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. (Daniel 3:19-28)
When we worship God BEFORE the test, He joins us IN the test. However, He is not the only one who sees us in the fire. Our enemies and those around us also see our faithful obedience and loyalty when we stand tall when everyone else bows down. Evil will be overcome by our testimony. TT
“Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.” Rev 2:10
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. (Rev. 6:9)
Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (Rev 20:4)
So, what are your “non-negotiables”? How big or how hot a fire would it take before you would give in? Are you about the business of building up your strength and endurance NOW, before the hottest fires are upon you? Are you making wise choices about who and how you will worship? Are you following Your Father with loyalty and perseverance? NOW is the time to prepare for the coming trials and testings. Daily set your focus on the FOURTH MAN IN THE FIRE! He will not let you down!
Let’s pray: Lord, so often we wonder about ourselves when we compare ourselves with Bible characters like Shadrach, Mesach and Abednigo…Would I stand the test? Would I persevere to the end, not knowing how the story would end, or would I cave in? I want to be one of those who will stand by You to the end, as You stood by me to the end. But I am so weak, so filled with fear, doubt and I lack courage. Your word does not ask me to live in the tomorrow, but in the today. TODAY I want to make choices that will temper my faith and endurance. TODAY I want to worship only my God! TODAY I want to stand true. Lord, without You I can do nothing. But with Your Spirit living within me, anything is possible. Lord, please come and fill me anew and redirect my purposes along that path that You have marked out for me so that I will be found faithful and true, and my faith will be non-negotiable!
In Jesus name, Amen.